When will those annoying sales phone calls stop?

Window on the West

Opinion column

by Mary Rupert

The phone rings. “Hello, this is your captain speaking …” plays for the umpteenth time.

Our phone recorder fills up with these sales calls. As so many other people, we often don’t even answer the land-based telephone line any more, unless we see a number we recognize from caller ID.

It never fails that I am in the middle of something that I think is important when the phone will ring and I will stop to see who it is. But it’s usually just another security sales call, “Did you know your home could be the target of a break-in?” or a sales pitch for medical insurance when we don’t need any. “The Obama administration has determined ….”

Automated phone dialers call us during political campaigns with prerecorded messages that go straight to my recorder, too. At one point, I thought we had signed up for the no-call list, but apparently we did not, I am told by someone else at home.

The phone rings again. I look at the caller ID, and it’s one of my universities’ foundations calling. They’re allowed to call for donations. I know right away that they want a donation, because that’s all they have ever called for in the past. I want to tell them, sorry, I can’t give you any money this year because I don’t have enough right now, but instead, I decide to just let the phone ring and not answer it. When I don’t have the money, you don’t get the money. They will just have to wait until some other time for that tiny donation. Sorry, alma mater.

It’s not that I am totally against sales phone calls. I myself make some non-sales calls by telephone for information, sometimes to people I have not met before. Those are different, I reason. I am seeking information, not money. Research and polls are exempt from no-call rules. But I can see how a small business would be hard-pressed to do without sales calls by phone, as start-up businesses sometimes do not have the money to send letters or postcards to potential clients. Businesses are allowed to make sales calls to their own existing clients. Of course, I have always thought a print ad in a newspaper would be more effective, less likely to disturb the potential customer.

The first time my cell phone received one of those prerecorded sales calls, I was very upset. One reason for being upset was the cell phone was always a good way to miss out on sales calls. The other reason, though, was the billing of the cell phone was set up per phone call minutes (not currently my plan), and could result in me paying for a call I did not want. Roto-dialers, I have heard, are not allowed to call cell phones.

I was not surprised that the Kansas attorney general last week said the top complaint of 2013 was violations of the No-Call Act. He reported filing 17 enforcement actions in 2013, and there is a bill in the Legislature to prohibit sales calls to cell phones.

One Kansas City, Kan., resident recently told me she, like almost everyone else, doesn’t like the sales calls. She is on the no-call list and still gets them. Now she even gets them on her office phone. She’s punched in a number to be put on the caller’s no-call list, but they just call her again anyway.

This time, the phone is ringing again. Wait a minute, the recorder is saying someone is going to give me $2,000 of free groceries? All I have to do is sign up for the plan?  But I don’t answer the call. Too bad, I’m past the point of believing it.

Mary Rupert, editor, screens her calls in Kansas City, Kan.  To reach Mary, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com, and leave a message.

Volunteer for a food pantry

Volunteer column

by Cathi Hahner

The holidays are over and there is a tendency to forget that local food pantries still need help in order to provide for those in hardship. The pantries rely heavily on the good will and hard work of volunteers.

Volunteers can help local pantries in a number of ways. They can help in the office, sort donated food items, stock shelves or help clients select items for their family.

Another way volunteers can help is to organize a food drive or collect personal care items for a pantry. Ideas for food drives include: ask party guests to bring a food staple in lieu of presents; churches, organizations and clubs could designate a meeting date to collect items; hold a workplace drive. Contributions large or small are always needed.

Remember to keep food donations simple and include easy-to-prepare items.

•             Canned meats, fruits and vegetables are always a good option.

•             Fruit juices and breakfast cereals (hot and cold) are nutritious.

•             Peanut butter, pasta, canned sauce, boxed meals like Hamburger or Tuna Helper, rice and potato dishes are always good.

•             Flour, sugar, powdered or evaporated milk, salt and pepper are staples that most kitchens can use. Low sugar and low sodium options can be used as well.

•             Contributions of baby food and canned formula are always welcome.

•             Personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper are always appreciated.

Local pantries include Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas (913-621-1504), Cross-Lines Community Outreach (913-281-3388), Metropolitan Lutheran Ministry (913-342-8333), Mt. Carmel Redevelopment (913-621-4111), Salivation Army Harbor Lights (913-232-5400) and Vaughn-Trent Community Services in Bonner Springs (913-441-0461). Some local churches host a food pantry on certain days. Check your church or one in your neighborhood.

For more information on how to give, advocate and volunteer, contact Cathi Hahner at 913-371-3674 or chahner@unitedway-wyco.org. You can find volunteer opportunities by checking out the website, www.unitedway-wyco.org and click on Volunteer.

Cathi Hahner is director of volunteer services for United Way of Wyandotte County.